Ukrainian company offers lesson in IT resilience

Keiki, a product development company, uses remote collaboration tools and cloud resources to continue operations and keep its educational apps in the hands of children.

Few IT managers, hopefully, will ever need to keep infrastructure available in wartime. But the case of Keiki, a Ukrainian educational app developer, sheds some light on how organizations maintain IT resilience even in the worst of circumstances.

Keiki creates iOS, Android and web-based apps geared to children from 2 to 8 years old. The product company, operating at the junction of edtech and game dev, launched in Kyiv in 2019 with the backing of Genesis, a co-founding company that focuses on building tech businesses in central and eastern Europe.

Since the Russian invasion started in February, Keiki team members have dispersed to safer regions within Ukraine. The distributed workforce uses two main types of network connections, noted Anton Bondarev, operations manager at Keiki. Personnel that have relocated to cities in western Ukraine, living in rented apartments or houses, use high-speed, fiber-optic networks. Those working in rural areas, or where internet access is poor, use 4G mobile communications. Bondarev said 3G or 4G mobile internet covers 90% of Ukrainian territory.

Using remote tools

Unsurprisingly, Keiki has boosted its reliance on remote communication and collaboration tools.

"Since the beginning of the war, we have been using our remote-based tools," Bondarev said. "We used them before, but not so often."

Those tools include Slack, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Meet, Atlassian's Jira project-tracking software, Trello's project management tool and the Notion workspace app.

Since the beginning of the war, we have been using our remote-based tools. We used them before, but not so often.
Anton BondarevOperations manager, Keiki

Bondarev said several of its partners have provided discounts, which have taken some of the load from Keiki's operations.

The early-stage company has also sharpened its security focus, due to the high risk of Russian hacker attacks, Bondarev said. Keiki launched a password manager, for example. "And we have been monitoring security breaches on the dark web to maintain our VPN to be more secure while working in public spaces," he added.

Cloud resources for IT resilience

On the game development and hosting side, all of Keiki's project infrastructure resides on the AWS cloud. "We use a serverless architecture, which gives us big scaling capabilities with low infrastructure costs," said Oleksandr Sytnik, technical lead at Keiki. The main programming language is JavaScript and the Node.js JavaScript runtime environment.

The war didn't affect Keiki's technical decisions, since everything has been operating in the cloud, Sytnik said.

Keiki uses the Unity game development platform and can call upon in-house specialists in a range of areas, including Unity developers, Node.js developers, 2D artists, UX/UI designers and curriculum specialists, noted Sergiy Potapov, Unity lead at Keiki.

The company's game contains a lot of content, part of which it finishes downloading once the app is installed. Keiki packs the content in Unity AssetBundles, which are uploaded to Amazon S3 storage. Printable educational materials are also stored on S3, Potapov said.

Content updates continue using remote configurations. A continuous integration system, which employs Jenkins and Fastlane, optimizes development and testing, Potapov noted. Keiki has its own mobile app backend, through which it validates user access. "We managed to block access to all users from Russia in a matter of hours and give free access through Ukraine," Potapov said.

The company's main product, Keiki World, is free of charge for preschool-age Ukrainians.

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